I fear we’re doing it wrong…education, that is. We live at a time when 21st century skills and edtech are all the rage. Creativity, coding, and active learning have become mainstays of teacher professional development. Heck, even the current US Secretary of Education incorrectly believes that we are preparing most students for jobs that haven’t been created yet. What is acceptable practice in the classroom is changing so quickly that teachers are struggling to keep up; one new tech tool to use here, another future ‘skill’ to teach there. It’s enough to be a factor in teacher burnout.
Of course, we want to give students the tools/abilities/skills to be successful in a changing world. We want today’s student to solve problems we cannot solve yet and create a healthier, happier, and more productive world.
So, where are we going wrong?
We’re placing the cart (creativity/innovation) before the horse (content knowledge). There is such a push today with students to be creative and innovative. Now, to be honest, there’s nothing really wrong with that sentiment, as long as we acknowledge a major prerequisite for creativity and innovation…knowledge. Simply put, one cannot be creative with information they do not have. Let’s have a look at Bloom’s Taxonomy:
This chart is known by just about every teacher. It is ubiquitous with planning lessons, planning questions, and is often talked about in teacher training programs and professional development sessions. Generally, the idea is to have students working at the top of the triangle; evaluating existing information and creating new ideas and/or works. Sounds great, doesn’t it? The problem is we are, more and more, asking students to start at the top instead of starting at the bottom to create a firm foundation of content knowledge before climbing the triangle. This practice of attempting to start at the top is, at best, inefficient; usually it is ineffective. A person who has very little background knowledge on car engines would have a great problem attempting to ‘start from the top’ with creating a new, more powerful engine or evaluating the pros and cons of different types of engines. A much more efficient and effective usage of class time would be to simply instruct the student on engines (starting from the bottom), giving the student the opportunity to gain the necessary knowledge, before advancing up Bloom’s taxonomy.
Am I saying that being creative is bad? Do I believe that edtech is inherently detrimental to the learning environment? Not at all. I am all for any strategy, gadget, or tech tool that improves the learning environment; allowing students to think with and apply the information in new ways. I just believe we’re getting ahead of ourselves a bit. Knowledge first, then creativity and innovation.
What do you agree/disagree with in this post? Please comment. I want to have a conversation.
Bloom’s Taxonomy image from the Vanderbilt University Center for Teaching https://cft.vanderbilt.edu/guides-sub-pages/blooms-taxonomy